New England on a Pedestal

104. The Wave

October 28, 2021 Doug Farquharson Season 1 Episode 4
104. The Wave
New England on a Pedestal
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New England on a Pedestal
104. The Wave
Oct 28, 2021 Season 1 Episode 4
Doug Farquharson

We visit Newport and Jamestown, Rhode Island and discover several works by Kay Worden, including The Wave, Hurdy Gurdy, Man, Swing High, and more.

Show Notes Transcript

We visit Newport and Jamestown, Rhode Island and discover several works by Kay Worden, including The Wave, Hurdy Gurdy, Man, Swing High, and more.

Hello Pedestal Peeps and welcome to episode four of New England on a Pedestal. I am your host, Doug Farquharson.  If you have returned after listening to previous episodes, thanks for sticking with us! We purposefully design each episode of our podcast to be a stand-alone chapter in the story of New England as told through its many and varied statues, monuments, and sculptures. And we hope that once you have heard one of our podcasts, you’ll be inspired to take a listen to our other episodes. If you like what you hear, please subscribe to us through your favorite podcast player and consider leaving a review for us. It will help us reach more listeners and expand our audience. You can also like and follow our Facebook page. Subscribe to us over on Instagram. We put up photos, links, and other interesting tidbits over there on our social media pages. You can contact us through those platforms or email us at, that’s New England on a Pedestal all one word at F A R Q I E dot com. Reach out to us if you have a favorite statue that you think we should know about. We are always looking to add to our ever-growing database for ideas for future episodes.

Previous episodes have taken us to Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. We’ve been introduced to both specific and generic New England folks such as George Brown of Hopkinton, fire fighters in Portsmouth and Snoody, a Maine lobsterman and state house lobbyist. This episode we find ourselves in Newport, Rhode Island. 

What comes to your mind when you hear the words “The Wave?” I suppose if you drive a Wrangler like I do, you might think of the Jeep Wave. It’s a friendly and fun tradition among jeepers where we give a wave as we pass other jeeps on the road. Or if you’ve ever gone to a major league sporting event, or even a concert in a large venue, you may have participated in the wave or watched as the undulating wave of people made its way around the stadium. And I think there’s even been an ocean-going disaster movie or two made over the years about rogue waves and tsunamis.

What comes to mind when you think of Newport, Rhode Island? For me, it’s America’s Cup sailing, mansions, gorgeous architecture, The Newport Irish Festival, yachts lining the harbor, restaurants, and shopping. The National Sailing Hall of Fame is on Thames Street. The International Tennis Hall of Fame is on Bellevue Avenue. In 1974, Robert Redford filmed The Great Gatsby in the Rosecliff and Marble House mansions. And of course, it’s also home to the US Navy’s Naval Station Newport, where the Naval War College, the Naval Justice School, and the Navy Academy Preparatory School can be found among other Navy commands. Got to give a shout out here to the great NAPS83 class!

Whimsical sculptures, however, were never on my Newport radar, but yet here we are in episode 4, gazing at The Wave.

I had decided to head down to Newport because I had recently become aware of a waterfront sculpture entitled The Wave, sometimes known as The Wave and The Feet. In doing some preliminary research for this episode, I read up on the artist, Kay Worden and discovered that there are several other sculptures and statues of hers sprinkled throughout Newport and the surrounding area. So, I added those to the list of places to check out while in town. On a pleasant Autumn Saturday, I asked my wife to join me on a quick drive over the border into Rhode Island and as luck would have it, Gail has a college friend living in Newport. Andrea agreed to meet us and act as our local guide as we began what essentially became a statue scavenger hunt.

After we parked our car and met Andrea, we began strolling along the waterfront. It was a warm, and somewhat overcast day. The area was fairly crowded with pedestrians as a seafood festival was going on. Soon, we caught sight of our first quest. Near the Red Parrot Restaurant, across from the Post Office, and just down the street from St Mary’s Church where the JFK wedding took place in 1953, sits a small park on the corner of Memorial Blvd and Thames Street. Currently, there is a nice outdoor bar and restaurant seating for the Newport Bay Club and Hotel. Sitting atop a raised red brick platform, The Wave in blue tinted bronze, is rather large, standing about seven feet wide and eight feet high. It was commissioned by the Perrey Mill/Bay Club Partners in 1983. It depicts as you may have deduced from the title, a large breaking ocean wave with two bronze feet sticking out of it. Passers-by will tickle the feet in the summer and in the cold New England winters you can usually find the feet adorned with a pair of socks, often mismatched ones. Little children can often be seen walking behind the Wave to try and find who those feet belong to. They younger ones are usually disappointed when they discover there is nothing but the back side of the breaking wave to be seen there. Rumors have been floated over the years as to just who those feet belong to, but no one has ever been officially named. 

I guess in the interest of full transparency, I should back up for a moment. Since the GPS took us down Route 138 and we were approaching Newport basically from the west, we came into Jamestown first. From my research, I knew that there were a couple Worden pieces on this side of the bridge as well. So we took the exit and began our search here. We found the Jamestown Community Center rather quickly and immediately spotted Swing High. I grabbed my camera and went to snap a photo of this fun statue, only to discover the batteries were dead and there were no spares left in the case. Fortunately, Gail had seen a local hardware on the drive into town and after a short walk we were back in business!

Swing High depicts a young boy, perhaps 10 to 12 years old, pushing his younger sister on a rope swing high into the air. You can almost hear her squeals of delight, possibly mixed with a little fear of the heights she is reaching. It’s a really fun, life-sized statue mounted right in the center of a patio in front of the Community Center overlooking Narraganset Bay. The lad stands with his feet solidly on the ground, shoulder width apart. There’s incredible detail in his clothing, sneakers, dungarees, t-shirt, A small frog peers out from his back pocket. He has one hand on the swing seat and one on his sister’s back as he pushes her higher and higher. Her dress flows and her legs pump and her hair flies as she smiles and laughs while holding tightly to the ropes which disappear into thin air above her. You can’t help but to smile and feel the joy of free-spirited childhood.

Next, we headed to the Jamestown Library on North Road to find Dreams of Tomorrow. We found the library, although it was closed when we arrived. We found a cute concrete bunny rabbit with spectacles and clutching several books. We found an incredible children’s playground with some real spectacular swings, slides, and climbing towers. We found the Jamestown Art Center across the street and a really cool metal sculpture out front that from a distance reminded me of Pikachu, but upon closer inspection is a large rabbit looking through a glass. It’s by Peter Diepenbrock and titled Big B and the Looking Glass. Finally, as I was about to get back in the car and call it a futile search, Gail found what we came for. Peering through a window into the children’s section of the library, she spotted Worden’s work. Dreams of Tomorrow depicts a young boy sitting on a rock, hat pulled down around his ears and his chin in his hands gazing outward, dreaming about tomorrow. Success, okay, now back in the car, cross the bridges into Newport, find Andrea’s address, park, meet up, walk downtown, stop for some Nutella lattes at Empire Tea and Coffee on Broadway, find The Wave, and there, all caught up and we can get back into chronological order with our scavenger hunt.

Next up is The Hurdy Gurdy Man in the Brick Marketplace also known as the Stoneacre Garden area. We walked a few blocks but were having a hard time finding it and things didn’t look like they should. Well, truth be told, between chatting and catching up with each other and checking out all the many shops and cafes, I think we zagged when we should have zigged and we wound up walking in the exact wrong direction, so we retraced our steps, crossed the street and headed down Thames.  The statue is located in the middle of a brick paved pedestrian way in between Thames St and America’s Cup Avenue. A plaque attached to the front of the pedestal says “This sculpture was made by Kay Worden in 1983 to receive donations for the benefit of Child and Family Services of Newport County.” It depicts an older man playing his organ grinder and his little monkey wearing a vest and small hat holding out a lidded cup for your spare change. The pair are life sized and again, the texture and detail in their facial expressions and clothing are amazing.

At this point in our day, hunger took precedence of finding the remaining couple Worden works on my list. So we went over to the waterfront and gave the Clark Cooke House a try. I have to say, the meal was quite good and the atmosphere was fantastic. The sun had set by the time we were finished up but the Newport Hospital was only a few short blocks past where we had parked. So, we made our way there and found “The Nurses” overlooking Broadway. The inscription on the large granite pedestal reads “Commissioned by the Alumnae Association Newport Hospital School of Nursing 1999.” We have here a nurse holding a swaddled newborn standing next to an elderly gentleman seated in a hospital wheelchair and shows that nurses are there caring for us throughout our entire lifespan. Again, her attention to detail is fantastic.

Our last stop on our little scavenger hunt was on First Beach or also known as Easton Beach where we found “Each Other.” Sitting right outside the Save the Bay Exploration Center and Aquarium, this wonderful statue gives us a Dad kneeling down to receive his excited young daughter into his arms where the pair give each other a loving hug. It’s a very sweet moment captured beautifully in bronze for all time. 

So who is Kay Worden and how did her works wind up as public art all around the Newport area? When she was 18, Kay married a well respected neuroscientist, Dr Frederick Worden who went on to work at several major universities including Johns Hopkins, UCLA, and MIT. During the 1950s and 60s they lived in California and raised five children. Kay volunteered for a time with Head Start and then began a national effort to bring an end to the war in Vietnam. She also had a successful tennis career while living in California. While in Massachusetts, she was appointed by Governor Dukakis to serve on the State Judicial Nominating Commission. She served on the Board of Directors of the Stride Right Corporation and on the Board of Overseers of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  In 1981, the Wordens moved to Jamestown RI where she was involved in many civic minded activities, including service on boards and as a trustee with Child and Family Services, Jamestown Community Theater, the National Committee for the Performing Arts, the Newport Hospital, The Newport Art Museum, and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. She worked on both cooperate boards and charitable organizations and at virtually every level from local to international causes. Throughout this time her artwork also exposed her to many other circles and her work was displayed all over the world, including Hollywood, London, Paris, Munich, New York, Boston, Nashville, and Bulgaria. Her works sold in galleries around the world and are noted for the expressions of children in particular doing ordinary things. I think she really had a knack for capturing the ordinary in an extraordinary way. Kay Worden died in 2015 at the age of 90 leaving behind a legacy of activism, caring, a love of the arts, and a lasting gift in her sculptures.

I guess sometimes the lesson we learn from this podcast isn’t necessarily a history one, but a reminder that we can spread goodwill and help each other while doing things we love. Kay Worden loved the arts. But she clearly also loved helping people as evidenced by all the charities and organizations she championed over her lifetime. Personally, each of the statues I viewed on that trip to Newport left me with a smile. Each of them invoking strong emotions and feelings of laughter, family bonds, childhood memories. I highly recommend checking them out for yourselves. I’ll be back in Newport as I came across several other locations that deserve another look as well. And I’m sure I’ll revisit some of these fun statues again.

Since we first went live back in the beginning of October, the 125th running of the Boston Marathon has come and gone and thousands of runners passed by George V Brown’s likeness at the start line. I want to take a second to congratulate the winners and in fact all the participants in this year’s race. A special shout out to all the public safety and medical workers who keep things moving safely along. And if you didn’t hear the post roll content after episode 1, The Starter, then you didn’t hear about the free swag awaiting you at Start Line Brewing. Go back and give it a listen.

As we mentioned before, the concept behind New England on a Pedestal is rather simple. Travel around our six-state area, find some interesting statues, and discuss them. We have a growing database of statues, monuments, and sculptures that we will be covering over time, but we certainly do not know all of them. Tell us about a favorite or unique or odd statue you know. Do you have additional information or perhaps a correction about something we have already shared, please send it our way and maybe, we will add an addendum to a later episode. Let us know what you think. What are we doing right? What can we do better? We can be reached via email at That’s New England on a Pedestal all one word at F A R Q I E dot com.  Go to Facebook and like the New England on a Pedestal page. Follow us on Instagram. We will be posting photos and links on those social media platforms.

We can now be found on many of your favorite podcast players including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, the iHeartRadio app, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, and several others. Please subscribe to us on whatever player you prefer and consider leaving a review. That will help other listeners to find us easier and grow our audience.

I couldn’t produce this podcast without the help and support of numerous friends and family. I want to thank Alec of Murder Mystery Dinner Theater fame and Bekka over at the Pixie Dust and Happy Thoughts podcast. The New England on a Pedestal logo was designed by Natick artist Jason Cheeseman-Meyer. The theme music is by local musician Sam Checkoway and was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Jake of Honest Face Records. I want to thank my wife Gail for assisting me on this episode’s legwork and Andrea for being an awesome guide while in Newport.

Join us again when a new episode drops and find out where we wind up next! Until then, be safe, be well, and keep discovering.